How can we create fairer workplaces for all?

Published by Lisa Basford on

Image: Catherine Hanlon on unsplash

The first UN International Equal Pay Day takes place on 18 September. Gender inequality and the empowerment of women and girls is an issue right across the world. Governments, businesses, institutions have all declared they will make inequality a thing of the past so why has it been so hard to achieve in practice? According to the UN, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn from doing work of equal value (the gap is greater for women with children). With the disparity already so large, the UN concludes that it will take 257 years to close the global gender pay gap.

Here in the UK, The Homes England report shows there is a mean gender pay gap of 16.9% and a median figure of 15.3%. The gap is closing but not quickly enough. What’s more, due to the Covid-19 pandemic there is no requirement for companies to report their gender pay gap this year. Reporting had been mandatory for any organisations with 250+ employees since 2017.

Many reports suggest that inequality has actually grown during the pandemic. A study by the University of Cambridge shows that women in the UK and US were more likely than men to lose their jobs or to suffer reduced earnings, even accounting for differences in education, occupation and location. In families where both parents worked during lockdown, reports have suggested that it was mothers who bore the brunt of housework and home-schooling on top of any work commitments. This was also shown to be the case when both parents were furloughed or out or work.

As Jess Heagren, fonder of flexible working platform, That Works for Me, tells us “2020 has highlighted the need for equality like no other – race, gender, age, socioeconomics – people’s ability to respond to the crises that have been thrown at them has been disappointingly and stereotypically predictable. This is unacceptable in today’s world. People and businesses need the support and guidance to change.”

So, if the divide is increasing rather than diminishing, what can businesses do about it? What are the practical steps that leaders can implement to create a fairer workplace for all?

Good Endeavours caught up with Cat Wildman, Co-Founder of The Global Equality Collective to find out.

How has the pandemic exacerbated the issue of gender inequality in UK workplaces?

We secured our investment and began development on our platform in the first week of lockdown – I was pitching to our investors that instead of pausing, we should ramp up and focus even more on gender equality, luckily they agreed. It doesn’t take an expert in equality to predict that we would emerge from the period with a wider gender gap than before. The figures are starting to emerge now: from females being the ones to take the hit redundancy-wise, to females shouldering more than their fair share of both the domestic and childcare duties in addition to their paid work during lockdown. Add to that the fact that gender pay gap reporting was postponed this year and Gender Equality has been pushed off the table due to the “need to survive”. The need for who or what to survive? 

Which organisations do you admire for their work in reducing inequality and supporting ALL employees?

I admire our first ten customers who signed up during a pandemic, and their dedication to achieving gender equality. I would argue that any organisation who wants to survive this crisis needs diversity of thought. I hugely admire their dedication to their employees and to the greater cause. 

Kevin O’Brien, Founder of Williams Kent, a recruitment firm, was one of the first to sign, telling us that gender equality – or in fact any type of equality –  is important “for your loved ones, for the bottom line of your business, for society, or simply because it’s fair and it should be a human right.”

What solutions could have the biggest impact in reducing inequality in the workplace?

Data, and jumping into it (rather than shying away).

For almost 3 years now, most organisations have been focussing all their efforts on one data point: their gender pay gap. However, it’s vital to see what lies beneath the headline figures and address the real issues.  It’s complex. Whilst becoming a member of The GEC will certainly help businesses to make changes to close the gender pay gap, that’s not the metric we want our organisations to use day-to-day.

We give organisations up to 140 related data points to investigate and use to shape their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion plans, it helps them find gaps and it leaves no stone unturned. Consequently, they see results a lot faster and can close many small gaps that they were previously unaware of. As a third party we can ask the difficult questions so they can see the real picture. The employees need to be asked the questions – and the leadership team needs to see the answers. Shying away from your data doesn’t make a problem go away. 

You’ve launched a Gender Equality and Inclusion app, how does it work?

The GEC app has been two years in the making and has taken onboard the thinking of three universities and over 100 experts. It simplifies the process of working towards equality in the workplace by undertaking two assessments. The first – the Gender Equality and Inclusion assessment – is carried out by the Leadership Team. The second – the Employee assessment – ensures a 360 view of a company’s equality and inclusion status and helps to identify gaps such as parental leave or training.

Reporting is just the start

Results are shared instantly through the app, but that’s only the start. Once you can easily understand and interrogate the data you can start to drive change. The GEC has a suite of e-learning resources, and we are adding more. We are not the experts at leading your organisation, but we aim to make you the experts in leading diversity, equality, and inclusion within your organisation.

But, it’s not just about gender….

No. It’s more than gender. The GEC app is launching in stages, with gender first. We’re already busy working on other frameworks including

  • Racial equality, LGBTQ+, disability inclusion framework
  • Socioeconomic and parental inclusion framework
  • Anti-ageism and religious inclusion framework

How can I get started?

If you’re ready to start your journey towards equality and inclusion, you can find out more about The GEC and sign up for the Gender Equality and Inclusion app here


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